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Friday, October 30, 2015

The two wives of George IV

©By Cheryl Bolen

Before England's King George IV became prince regent (a title more identifiable with him than his eventual monarchy) at age 48 in 1811, he had taken two wives--and neither of the marriages were ever dissolved and neither woman ever truly shared his reign.

How can he have legally had two wives? He didn't. One of his wives was illegal. As a young man of 21, he fell madly in love with Maria Fitzherbert, a wealthy and beautiful widow six years his senior. The fact that she was a Catholic was not the only obstacle in their path of matrimonial harmony. There was also the Royal Marriage Act prohibiting any member of the royal family from marrying without the king's permission. As an act of Parliament, the Royal Marriage Act superseded any law of church; to violate it would be a crime.

 Maria Fitzherbert, the Prince Regent (later George IV)

For over a year the Prince of Wales courted Mrs. Fitzherbert and even resorted to a botched suicide attempt to gain her hand. Eventually she relented, and in 1785 they were secretly wed by an Anglican minister and fancied themselves married. But cognizant of the criminal act they had committed, the two never publicly acknowledged the marriage, nor did they ever live in the same residence. The prince was willing to let his brother Freddie (the Duke of York) sire children who would be heirs to the throne, and he planned to do away with the Royal Marriage Act when he became king. (Freddie, by the way, never had any children.)

Troubles precipitated by Mrs. Fitzherbert's hot temper, the prince's wandering eye, and--most of all--his vast debts sent the marriage into the skids less than a decade later. Prinny had decided to take Brunswick's Princess Caroline for his wife, an action that would increase his annual income and clear his exorbitant debts.

Caroline of Brunswick, later Princess Caroline

Though he had never met Caroline, a first cousin, the prince married her in 1795. He took such an instant dislike to her slovenly appearance he had to get himself excessively drunk in order to beget a child on her (Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth in 1817). With that duty dispatched, he turned his back on his true wife, and they lived apart for the remainder of their lives.

Five years after his "legal" marriage, the prince persuaded Mrs. Fitzherbert to return to him. They stayed affectionate for almost a decade, parting ways because of his infidelity the year before he became regent.

Caroline died shortly after his coronation as King George IV, but he never remarried, and when he died ten years later in 1830 he wore about his neck a miniature portrait of Mrs. Fitzherbert.Cheryl Bolen's newest release is the first in the Brazen Brides series, Counterfeit Countess. Fans of her Regent Mysteries can preorder the newest installment, An Egyptian Affair, only on iBooks.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Herbs in Medieval Medicine

by Regan Walker

While doing the research for Rogue Knight, my new medieval set in 11th century England, I learned a lot about the herbs they grew in gardens or were found in the wild. They were, after all, the only medicine they had. So they used herbs and plants, individually or together, in infusions, teas, salves and other forms to treat their various illnesses and maladies.

Long before the Normans came to England, the Anglo-Saxons used herbs and plants of all kinds in remedies for things like headaches, fever, stomach ailments, pain and respiratory illnesses. Winter was especially hard on medieval society, as cold, drafty dwellings led to numerous cases of deadly pneumonia.

The earliest surviving texts that speak of herbal remedies in Old English are from the 9th century, but there is evidence that older texts were not all in Latin. Bald’s Leechbook and Lacnunga are among the most complete texts.

The Leechbook is an Anglo-Saxon medical manual made up of three books (labeled I, II and III), probably compiled in the early tenth century. It contains some of the best Mediterranean medicine from the third to the ninth centuries, so apparently they shared information. While some of the herbs mentioned in the texts were only available around the Mediterranean, some were traded from distant areas, such as frankincense, pepper, silk, ginger and myrrh.

The Lacnunga, a tenth century herbal, praises nine sacred herbs of the Nordic god Woden: mugwort, plantain, watercress, betony, chamomile, nettle, chervil, fennel and crab apple. (Thyme occurs in other lists of the “nine sacred herbs”.)

With the Norman Conquest, many Anglo-Saxon texts were destroyed and replaced with books written in Latin. Greek and Roman writings on medicine were preserved by hand copying of manuscripts in monasteries.

The monasteries thus tended to become local centers of medical knowledge, and their herb gardens provided the raw materials for simple treatment of common disorders. At the same time, folk medicine practiced in the home as well as the village supported numerous wandering and settled herbalists.

Some herbs and their uses:

Lemon Balm: Used in a drink as an aid against melancholy.

Borage: It was associated with courage: "I, Borage, Bring Courage."

Chickweed: Used to treat constipation, upset stomach and to promote digestion, also used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems such as colds. It can be used on wounds as well.
Horehound: syrups and drinks for chest and head colds and coughs.

Lemon Balm: Used in a drink as an aid against melancholy.

Borage: It was associated with courage: "I, Borage, Bring Courage."

Chickweed: Used to treat constipation, upset stomach and to promote digestion, also used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems such as colds. It can be used on wounds as well.
Horehound: syrups and drinks for chest and head colds and coughs.

Marjoram: Used in cooking, in spiced wine, in brewing beer and in medicines to treat the stomach. 

Mint: Mint vinegar was used as a mouthwash; mint sauce restored the appetite. Also used for stomach ailments, in treating fevers and wounds.

Mugwort: A charm for travellers and used in foot ointments; also used in treating women's ailments.

Nettles: Eating nettles mixed with the white of an egg cured insomnia. And nettles were used in salves. Bald’s Leechbook contains a recipe for a nettle-based ointment for muscular pain.

Rosemary. The flowers, boiled in tea, were an all-purpose medicine. Putting the leaves under your pillow supposedly guarded against nightmares. The ashes of the wood were used for cleaning teeth. Brides and grooms exchanged rosemary wreaths instead of rings; rosemary was also planted or strewn on graves. Rosemary was burned as an incense to kill or prevent infection, including the plague.

Rue: a sour-smelling perennial called “the herb of grace” because it was used as a holy water sprinkler. Also used to treat venomous bites, and poor eyesight.

Sage: The leaves were used in salads and green sauces and as a spring tonic.

St. John’s Wort: Most effective for curing fever if found by accident, especially on Midsummer's Eve.

Thyme. In addition to its use as a seasoning, it was burned as a fumigate against infection. Supposedly ladies embroidered a thyme sprig in flower, along with a bee, on favors for their favorite knights.

Yarrow: Used to treat headaches and wounds, especially battle wounds, and the bite of mad dogs. The wound treatment caused it to be associated with knights.

Willow bark: Willow bark and slippery elm, boiled, were used as a tea (sometimes with honey to make it more palatable) for fever and aches.

Some of the Flowers:

While not herbs, these flowers were used to treat ills, and the medieval folks also ate flowers.

Calendula, also marygolde or Mary’s Gold: Flower petals were used in broths and tonics, and in treatments to strengthen the heart. And they made nice garden borders and keep away pests.

Chamomile: Used for headaches. Helps to settle the stomach and soothe the nerves, which may be why it was used in fevers.

Lavender. Used in food, and in refreshing washes for headaches. It was also used extensively in soaps and baths, as a personal scent and as a moth repellent.

Linden: In tea, used for insomnia disorders and anxiety. Also used for stomach disorders and diarrhea.

Roses: there were wild roses, of course. Their petals and the distilled water made from them were widely used in food as well as for scent, and added to medical preparations to strengthen the patient generally and to bronchial infections, colds, diarrhea and anxiety.

Do you have a favorite herb you use today to treat some ailment? Comment for a chance to win book 1 in my medieval series, The Red Wolf’s Prize. And don’t forget to check out my newest medieval: Rogue Knight
York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest

The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.


Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.

Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.


War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?

Excerpt… the first meeting of Sir Geoffroi and Emma of York… a bit ominous, perhaps, but remember, it led to love.

Dear God.
She crossed herself and covered her mouth, fighting the urge to spew at the sight of so much blood and so many bodies strewn about the clearing, blood congealed on their clothing, their vacant eyes staring into space. Some of the blood had pooled on the ground to catch the rays of the sun. The metallic scent of it, carried by the wind, rose in her nostrils.
At her side, the hound whimpered.
So many.
Until the Normans had come, Yorkshire had been a place of gentle hills, forests and thatched cottages circling a glistening jewel of a city set between two winding rivers. A place of children’s voices at play, some of those voices now silenced forever, for among the bodies lying on the cold ground were mere boys, their corpses cast aside like broken playthings.
At the sound of heavy footfalls on the snow-crusted ground, she jerked her head around, her heart pounding in her chest.
A figure emerged from the trees, so close she could have touched him.
She cringed. A Norman.
A tall giant of a knight, his blood-splattered mail a dull gray in the weak winter sun, ripped off his silvered helm and expelled an oath as he surveyed the dozens of dead. The sword in his hand still dripped the blood of those he had slain. He was no youth this one, at least thirty. His fair appearance made her think of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. A seasoned warrior of death who has taken many lives.
Had he killed people she knew? Her heart raced as fear rose in her chest.
Would she be next?

Links for Rogue Knight:

Regan Walker - Author Bio

Regan Walker is a #1 bestselling, multi-published author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romance. She has been a featured author on USA TODAY's HEA blog three times and twice nominated for the prestigious RONE award (her novel, The Red Wolf's Prize is a finalist for 2015). Regan Walker writes historically authentic novels with real history and real historic figures. She wants her readers to experience history, adventure and love.
Her work as a lawyer in private practice and then serving at high levels of government have given her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown”. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.”
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, who she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Regency Household Hints & Cookbooks

     Today we buy our cleaning goods and our remedies in ready-made bottles and cans and boxes. Prior to the era of mass manufacturing, which started after the Regency, all these items were manufactured in the household. This stands out at once in the household books from the late 1700's and early 1800's.
     The variety of 'tips' is astonishing, covering everything from cookery for the sick, to making pomades, to how to blacken fire grates and clean marble, to how to keep the rot off sheep.  ("Keep them in pens till the dew is off the grass," advises Mrs. Rundell in her book, Domestic Cookery.)

     Some directions are quite straightforward. To keep a door from squeaking, "Rub a bit of soap on the hinges." Other directions can list either products not readily available today, such as the orris-root and storax listed in a recipe for pot pourri, or the spermaceti to be used to make ointment for chapped lips. Also, amounts are often inexact. For chapped lip, "twopenny-worth of alkanet-root" is also required--probably a small amount, unless alkanet-room came very, very cheep.
     Amounts are often listed as handfuls, as in the rue, sage, mint, rosemary, wormwood and lavender for a "recipt against the plague" given by Hanna Glasse in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy. She also offers not one, but two certain cures for the "bite of a mad dog, one of which is both given to the "man or beast" bitten as well as recommending to be bound into the wound.
     Within the household, items would be made for beauty as well as practicality. Recipes are given for Hungary Water (early cologne), which took a month to actually make. There is also Lavender Water, a recipe to prevent hair from falling out and thicken it which includes using honey and rosemary tops, a paste for chapped hands, and pomades for the hair.
     The time spent on these recipes could be considerable. To make black ink with rain water, bruised blue galls, brandy and a few other items meant stirring the concoction every day for three weeks.  Other recipes, such as Shank Jelly for an invalid, requires lamb to be left salted for four hours, then brushed with herbs and then simmered for five hours. Time passed differently in the Regency era.
     Sick cookery is an item of importance, from recipes for heart burn to how to make "Dr. Ratcliff's restorative Pork Jelly." Coffee milk is recommended for invalids as is asses' milk, milk porridge, saloop (water, wine, lemon-peel and sugar), chocolate, barley water, and baked soup.
     An interesting distinction is made in that recipes pertaining to personal appearance and sick-cookery address the reader--and owner of the book. However, recipes for household cleaning and those not related to a person--such as how to mend china--are listed under "Directions to Servants." This shows clearly the distinction that the mistress of the house also acted as mistress of the still room, tending to the really important matters, and leaving the heavy work to her staff. Which kind of makes you long for those days--and the budget to have a staff.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Carriage Accidents Cliche?

Throughout most of history, travelling, especially long distance, was a dangerous undertaking. Some of the many dangers a traveler in Regency England faced included highwaymen attacks, most of which only resulted in loss of valuables but often injury and death as well. To offset this risk, the wealthy generally had armed outriders who rode horseback in front and behind the carriage to guard and protect them but not everyone could afford that and sometimes highway men attacked in alarming numbers.

Travelers also faced broken down carriages which caused delays and inconveniences and injuries, especially if their coach traveled at high speeds at the time of the malfunction. In addition, weather accounted for difficulty and danger. There are accounts of passengers riding on the top of a mail coach arriving frozen to death. But by far the most dangerous part of travel came from carriage accidents.

Now, don't roll your eyes. I've heard readers complain that it's too easy to kill off a character by arranging a convenient carriage accident so that they have become cliché. However, as cliché as it may seem, carriage accidents were every bit as common as car accidents are today. And since I've been in seven car accidents, either as a passenger or as a driver, ranging from minor fender benders to car-totaling collisions, and several people I love have suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of car accidents, I'm painfully aware how frequently that happens.
Just as there are many reasons for car accidents today, carriage accidents could be caused by any number of difficulties. Traveling at high speeds increased the likelihood of a major wipe out. (No, that’s not a Regency term J High-perched carriages such as the High-flyer phaeton were top heavy and easily overturned, especially in the hands of an unskilled driver. But carriages in general were subject to all kinds of problems and breakdowns. Maintenance was up to the coachman, but if he wasn’t especially diligent, there were any number of parts to a carriage that could break and cause accidents.

Roads were another cause of difficulty. They were poorly maintained, often muddy, rutted, narrow and windy. They were also snowy or icy. Toll roads usually fared better, but not always. Also, the horses themselves could throw a shoe or stumble over a rut or uneven ground which posed a threat to the carriage.

Other drivers were some of the greatest perils on the roads. There were no speed limits, and no driver’s licenses, and driving while intoxicated wasn’t policed. Drunk drivers or young dare devils careening around bends caused an alarming number of accidents. And since there were no seat belts or crash safety engineering, passengers could be thrown around or crushed or ejected.

It paints a terrifying picture, doesn’t it? The next time you read a book where the heroine’s parents died in a carriage accident, remember that they were an alarmingly common and therefore very realistic form of premature death. Instead of rolling your eyes and uttering the dreaded C word, nod sagely and applaud the author’s realism.